EMMITSBURG, Md. – Rashad Whack scored 22 points to lead a strong night for Mount St. Mary’s backcourt, and Brian Fitzpatrick’s career-high 18 points were not enough for Bucknell in a 69-64 setback on Tuesday night at Knott Arena. The Bison were able to trim a 12-point deficit down to two late in the contest but could not get over the hump, falling to 3-3 on the season.
Fitzpatrick made 8 of 12 shots from the field, including a 3-pointer, en route to his career-high 18 points. Bucknell also received major production from the bench, as Chris Hass (10), Dom Hoffman (9), John Azzinaro (9) and Ryan Hill (7) combined for 35 points on 13-for-19 shooting.
Under the direction of former Bucknell manager of basketball operations Jamion Christian, Mount St. Mary’s (2-5) is playing a VCU-style, up-tempo, full-court pressing style. The Mount’s starting backcourt produced 48 points, led by Whack’s 22 points and 13 each from Sam Prescott and Julian Norfleet.
Bucknell committed only nine turnovers against that aggressive trapping defense, but the Bison struggled to finish at the rim. They had a number of drives to the basket rim out and shot 46.3 percent on the night.
Mount St. Mary’s took the lead with an early 10-2 run, and Bucknell was chasing from behind all night. The Bison mounted several rallies, but each time the Mountaineers had an answer.
The Mount stretched an eight-point halftime advantage to 12 with the first four points of the second half. Treys by Fitzpatrick and Hill sparked an 8-2 Bison run that trimmed the deficit to five at 45-40.
Bucknell forced a miss at the other end, but Prescott grabbed Mount St. Mary’s very first offensive rebound of the night and put it back in. Prescott followed that with a 3-pointer to push the margin back to 10 at 50-40.
Prescott hit another short jumper to make it 54-42 with 11:27 left, but Bucknell would hold Mount St. Mary’s scoreless for the next four minutes. Two free throws by Hill and a shot in the lane by Hoffman cut it to eight, but the Bison came up empty on four straight chances to pull even closer. A fastbreak layup by Gregory Graves ended the Mount’s drought and pushed the margin back to 10.
Two free throws by Hoffman with 5:02 left capped a 6-0 run and brought the Bison back within four at 56-52, but Byron Ashe answered with his only basket of the night, a right-corner 3-pointer. After a Bison miss, Norfleet made two free throws to put Mount St. Mary’s up nine at 61-52 with 3:54 left.
Still, Bucknell had plenty of fight left. Cameron Ayers, who struggled to find his rhythm after picking up two quick fouls, converted a 3-point play. After a wild shot by Whack somehow went in, Hass found Fitzpatrick for a dunk, which he turned into a 3-point play. After another defensive stop, Hass drained a three from deep on the left wing to make it a 63-61 game with 1:44 left.
Two tough foul calls at the other end put Mount St. Mary’s into the bonus, and Norfleet hit both ends of the 1-and-1 to make it 65-61. A missed layup and turnover led to three more free throws, and a late Azzinaro 3-pointer was not enough.
Just about everything Mount St. Mary’s flung at the rim went in during the opening 20 minutes. The Mount shot 68.0 percent (17-25) in the first half, using an array of running bank shots, step-back 3-pointers and long twos to take a 38-30 halftime lead.
Ayers, the Bucknell scoring leader, was limited to six minutes in the first half after picking up an unlucky second foul when he was run over in the lane.
Mount St. Mary’s went up 22-14 on a whirling layup by Norfleet before the Bison bench sparked a 7-0 run. Hass drove to the bucket for a layup and made a sweet no-look feed to Hoffman for a layup. Another Hoffman bucket in the paint made it a 22-21 game.
A step-back trey by Norfleet highlighted a 7-0 run for the Mountaineers, and after the Bison cut the lead to three on two occasions late in the half, Mount St. Mary’s scored the final five points of the period to go up 38-30 at the break.
Bucknell made 5 of 13 3-point attempts in the game and went 9-for-10 from the foul line. The Bison held the Mount to three offensive rebounds and finished with a 28-25 rebounding advantage.
After shooting 68.0 percent in the first half, Mount St. Mary’s shot 39.1 percent in the second and finished the game at 54.2 percent. The Mountaineers were 5-for-17 from 3-point distance.After playing its last three games on the road, Bucknell returns home Saturday to face Princeton at 7 p.m. at Sojka Pavilion.